PORK TENDERLOIN ROULADE WITH PUMPKIN AND PECANS

This is a super simple recipe, but one that looks like you spent a considerable effort to bring to the table. I made it sous-vide, but you don’t have to do it this way, I offer alternatives for stove-top cooking. You can also use chicken breasts instead of pork, I made it both ways, not sure which one I prefer, I think the pork makes it easier to roll and looks a bit more tidy in the end. So that’s the one I picked to highlight today.

PORK TENDERLOIN ROULADE WITH PUMPKIN AND PECANS
(adapted from The Essential Sous Vide Cookbook)

2 pork tenderloins (about 1.2 pounds each)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée
¼ cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tsp Southwest spice mix (I used Penzey’s)
3/4 cup chicken broth (divided)
¼ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flour

Heat the water bath to 150°F.

Butterfly the pork tenderloins and use a rolling-pin or a meat mallet to flatten the meat to about 1/4 inch thick. Protect them with a plastic wrap and sprinkle the meat with a tiny amount of water before pounding. Season with salt and pepper all over.

In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin purée, the pecans, the Southwest mix, and a smidgen of salt. Spread half the filling on each piece of meat, leaving a ½-inch border around it. Roll up each pork tenderloin jelly-roll style, starting at the narrow end, and tie with kitchen twine (use 4 or so pieces to cover the extension of the roll).

Pour ¼ cup of chicken broth and the apple cider into the bag. Add the roulades, and seal using the water displacement method. Place the bag in the water bath and cook for 5 to 6 hours. Remove the roulades from the bag, reserving the cooking liquid (pass it through a sieve if you prefer a smooth sauce in the end). Place the roulades on a paper towel–lined plate and pat them dry.

In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the pork and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.  If needed, add a bit more oil to the skillet, add the flour, cook it for a couple of minutes, then add 1 cup of chicken broth plus the reserved cooking liquid. Cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove the strings from the meat, cut in slices and serve with the gravy.

For non-sous vide cooking: make the roulades and start by browning them on all sides on a skillet with very hot olive oil. When golden brown, add the chicken stock and apple cider, cover, and simmer gently until cooked through, making sure the liquid comes at least to half the height of the roulades. Depending on the thickness of the roulades, it will take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Baste the roulades and turn them around on all sides during cooking.  Once done, reduce the cooking liquid by boiling, or if you like more of a gravy consistency, do the flour trick as described in the recipe.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The temperature for cooking pork is a matter of taste. I’ve mentioned it before, we don’t care for pork still pink in the center, so I always go for 150F. You should do what suits your taste. The sous-vide has two advantages, the flexibility in time – you can even push the cooking time a bit further, if needed – and the way it keeps the roulade shape during cooking, even though it is not vacuum-sealed. Of course, the texture of the meat is perfect when made sous-vide, but you can still get a very nice meal on the stove-top, it just takes a bit more of tending during cooking. You don’t want to over-cook the delicate meat, or leave it uncooked in the center.  As I mentioned, I also used chicken breasts, and the rolled effect is not as nice, but it still tasted great. For chicken breasts, I reduced the cooking time to 4 hours, and used 148 F. Probably not much difference from 150F, but that’s what I did.


I love to find uses for canned pumpkin puree, because I often use some in a recipe and have leftovers staring at me later. Yes, it freezes well, but there is a limit to the number of little packages one can keep track in the freezer. I rather open a can, use it all up, and move on. When I made the recipe a second time, I did not even toast the pecans and it was still very nice, so a few shortcuts here and there don’t hurt. The sous-vide is perfect for working days. I can prepare it all the evening before, leave the bag in the fridge, set up the water-bath at lunch next day, and arrive home to a nice, almost effortless dinner. A couple of side dishes, and we are set.

ONE YEAR AGO: White-Chocolate Peppermint Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Shrubs, a fun alternative to alcoholic drinks

THREE YEARS AGO: Date Truffles 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

SIX YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

NINE YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

APPLE & SOBACHA-CARAMEL DOME CAKE


I absolutely adore individual dome cakes. They are small, cute, and if you gild the lily with a mirror-glaze, they have the potential to seriously awe your guests. For this version, I paired two classic flavors, apple and caramel, but the caramel was perfumed with sobacha tea. As I mentioned not too long ago, I am (still) in a Japanese-ingredient obsessive mode, which explains why sobacha made its way into our kitchen. I have to share another little obsession with you: online classes from Savour.com, an Australian website that is simply amazing. My favorite instructor is Kirsten Tibballs, but they have classes by other chefs, all worth every minute of your spare time. The sobacha caramel was an idea from Chef Jerome Landrieu, another instructor from Savour. I paired that with an apple compote, and a white chocolate mousse. All sitting together over a hazelnut sable cookie.

The fun can be spread over three days. On the first day, make the cookies and the apple-yuzu insert. On the second day, make the sobacha-caramel, the white chocolate mousse, assemble the cakes and freeze them. On the third day, make the mirror glaze and coat the cakes. Keep them in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.

APPLE & SOBACHA-CARAMEL DOME CAKES
(inspired by Savour.com and other sources)

makes six to eight individual portions

You will need: half-sphere silicone pans, large and small (I used this and this)
round cookie cutter for sable base

for the sable cookie:
50g hazelnut flour
160g unsalted butter, cold
250g all-purpose flour
50g powdered sugar
50g granulated sugar
40g whole eggs

for the apple-yuzu insert:
300g granny smith apples
30g yuzu juice (or substitute lemon juice)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
35g granulated sugar
4g NH pectin

for the sobacha-caramel:
120g heavy whipping cream
10g sobacha tea
cream to bring up to volume after infusing
150 g maple syrup
110 g brown sugar
75g sweetened condensed milk (about 1/4 cup)
85 g corn syrup (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

for the white chocolate mousse:
6 g gelatin (200 bloom)
30 g cold water
175 + 200 g heavy cream (divided)
190 g white chocolate, finely diced
1 T fresh lemon juice

for the mirror glaze:
2½ sheets (4g) of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
1/2 tsp titanium oxide
yellow and green gel food coloring (about 3 to 1)
caramel gel food coloring
golden sprinkles and milk covered hazelnuts for decoration

Make the sable cookies. Add the butter and the hazelnut flour into a food processor. Process a few times until the  mixture looks like sand. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, pulse a few times. Do not over-process to the point it will come together as a dough. Now add the egg (beat one egg and add the exact weight called for in the recipe). Pulse the processor two or three times, stop immediately and finish the dough by hand. You want to bring the dough together without over-working because now that liquid was added (through the egg), working the dough too much will develop gluten.

Roll the dough quickly on a lightly floured surface to cover more or less the extension of a quarter-sheet baking pan, the thickness should be around 3mm. Place the rolled dough in the fridge for about one hour, then cut circles of the exact diameter of the dome pan you will use for the cakes. This dough won’t spread or shrink, so you can exercise precision.  Place the cookies on a baking sheet (perforated, if available), and bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes. They do not need to develop color, just fully bake.  Reserve.

Make the apple-yuzu insert. Peel and dice the apples into 5 mm cubes. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and transfer to a saucepan. Add the yuzu or lemon juice to the saucepan and mix everything together. Turn the heat on to medium, add the apples and the vanilla. Cook very very gently with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes or until the apples get translucent and start to melt down a bit. You will need to stir it often, so that the fruit does not burn at the bottom. Make sure the flame is really low for the whole cooking time. Place portions in a small mold that will work as an insert for the dome cake. You can alternatively spread the compote as a thick layer and cut small rounds to use as insert after it is frozen.  Freeze the molds containing the apple mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Make the sobacha-caramel.  Infuse the heavy cream with sobacha tea by bringing the heavy cream to almost a full boil and adding the tea. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tea away, weigh the heavy cream and complete with fresh cream to restore the full 120g (some of it will be lost when the tea is sieved).

Combine the maple syrup, sugar, sobacha-cream, milk, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 240 F (115 C). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let it cool until it has spreadable consistency. You can place it in a piping bag (no piping tip needed) or use a small spatula to spread a very thin layer over the sable cookies that will be the base of the dome cake. Reserve in the fridge until ready to assemble the dessert.

Make the white chocolate mousse. Mix the gelatin with water and allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat 175 g of heavy cream in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges.  Pour over the white chocolate, add the bloomed gelatin, stir gently until chocolate is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and reserve. Whip the remaining 200 g of heavy cream (very cold from the fridge) until it reaches the consistency of melted ice cream. Fold gently into the reserved white chocolate mixture.

Assemble the dessert. Add a bit of mousse to the bottom of the large half-sphere mold. Place a frozen apple-yuzu insert on top, don’t press too hard, so that it won’t show on the surface. Fill almost to the top with mousse, then place the caramel-coated sable floating on top, with the caramel side down. Flatten everything well, if needed add additional mousse on the edges. Freeze overnight.

Make the mirror glaze. Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze. Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Add 1/2 tsp titanium oxide to the mixture, divide in two portions, one very large, one about 1/3 cup. Color the large amount light green, trying to mimic the color of a Granny Smith apple. Start with 3:1 yellow to green and adjust as you mix. Color the smaller amount with a caramel tone, and place in a squirt bottle.  Reserve both until they reach pourable temperature. The ideal temperature to pour the glaze is 92 to 94 F.  Once they reach that temperature, remove the cakes from the freezer, un-mold them and set them over a rack placed on top of a baking sheet. Glaze them with the light green mirror glaze, then make a drizzle with the caramel color.

If you want, add sprinkles and a chocolate-covered hazelnut on top. Keep in the fridge for at least one hour up to overnight before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I guess this is the longest recipe I’ve ever published, I am a bit tired just from reading it… The secret of this type of dessert that sounds like a culinary marathon, is dividing the work in several days. Once you do that, you wont’ feel overwhelmed at all. The toughest part of this recipe was dicing the apple, but it becomes a bit of a Zen thing. And when you look at the pieces later, it looks incredibly cool.

Yuzu juice. Tough to find, this time I had to resort to amazon, but if you live in a place with a well-stocked Japanese section, you might be able to get some. If you don’t have it, second best option would be Meyer lemon, or go for a mixture of lemon and lime juice (1:1) and call it a day. The yuzu adds a very intriguing citric flavor, so I advise you to try it at least once. As you can see from the first composite picture, I had two different sizes of molds for the inserts. The white one is a Silikomart “Stone”, and it ended up too big for the spheres I chose. Looking at the final dessert, I think that I could have made the insert even smaller, so that it would have more mousse. It’s a tough call. Phil liked it just the way it was.

Sobacha tea. It is a buckwheat product also not very easy to find (in other words, must amazon-it). I made some as a regular tea to try, it has a pretty unique flavor, a bit smoky, maybe. It was spectacular in the caramel, added a lot to it. If you don’t find it, just make a regular caramel without it. Now did you notice the bottom right picture? It is my new toy, a batter dispenser… I am so in love with it! It makes a very messy job a lot less messy, although to take a picture of the action I got in considerable amount of trouble. My beloved was not around and I had to use all my coordination to get that shot. Things were not always smooth. I will spare you of all sordid details, but it’s amazing what a little mousse can do on black boots. You can see my stylish dispenser better in this shot:


Isn’t it a thing of pure beauty and functionality? It has three different sizes of opening at the bottom, I used the largest one for this job. They can be twisted on and off, and stored on the handle. I will showcase it better in my next In My Kitchen post. Stay tuned.

Mirror glaze: The dome cakes un-molded perfectly and had a very smooth surface. The most important thing is to coat them right away, to prevent condensation to form  as they sit at room temperature. Pour from the top in a circular movement, and make sure you do a 360 degrees check, because sometimes small bits at the bottom might not get covered. There is some room for tweaking and the amount of glaze I shared is more than enough to cover six to eight cakes.


So here it is, my baby-dome cake sliced in half so you can see inside. I have a hard time deciding if the size of the insert is good as it is, or smaller would be better. The caramel layer is very sweet so a thin layer is all that you’ll need. The apple-yuzu compote stole the show… As you can see from the first composite picture, it made quite a few. In fact, I halved the recipe to share in this post, because it made so much. I have some ideas to use it in the future, will de-frost them and freeze again in a different size and shape for a future entremet type cake. For the time being, they are hibernating in the freezer, together with leftover mirror glaze. Best friends forever.

I hope you enjoyed this long post, and perhaps consider venturing in the world of mousse cakes. It is a lot of fun, the thrill of coating a cake with mirror glaze never seems to get old. I think it’s as addictive as baking macarons!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts

TWO YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

THREE YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

FIVE YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SIX YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

NINE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

BROCCOLI SOUFFLE

Some recipes can be intimidating, and soufflé is definitely part of the group. But honestly, it is very easy and flexible, in the sense that you can add pretty much anything you want to the basic formula. Plus, even if it does not rise as high as you would like, it’s always delicious. I guess the only way to really ruin a souffle is baking it to the point it dries out, but to get there the surface would be so dark, it would act as a warning sign. Of course, I suppose one could forget it in the oven. But, I digress. This version is a variation of my default recipe from Julia Child, a recipe that never let me down. Broccoli makes the egg mixture slightly more dense, so it won’t rise as much as a souffle prepared exclusively with cheese. But I will share a couple of tricks to maximize lift under the circumstances. Read on.

BROCCOLI SOUFFLE
(adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

6-cup mold, buttered and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano cheese

Parmigiano cheese for mold (about 2 T)

3T butter
3T flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites + pinch salt
3/4 cup broccoli florets
1/4 to 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Before you start, cook the broccoli florets. Place in a microwave-safe dish, season lightly with salt, and sprinkle some water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. Immediately remove from the dish and lay on a plate to cool. Cut in pieces that are no more than 3/4 inch big. Reserve.

Melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, don’t allow it to brown.  Remove from the heat, and when the butter stops furiously boiling, add the milk all at once. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes more. The sauce will thicken considerably. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Remove from heat, allow it to cool for 5 minutes or so,  and add the egg yolks, one by one, mixing very well after each addition. This sauce can be prepared to this point and refrigerated; bring it to lukewarm before continuing. If you decide not to refrigerate it, then dot it with butter, cover it with a plastic wrap and go work on the egg whites.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form – depending on your mixer or the strength of your biceps it will take 2 to 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the sauce, to thin it slightly – add the cheese and mix well.

Now, add the remaining egg whites and fold into the sauce. You don’t need to mix it until it is all incorporated and totally homogeneous, because the “lift” of your souffle’ depends on the air present in the beaten egg whites. When it’s almost fully folded, add the broccoli florets and fold a few times, very gently.

Fill the souffle’ mold to 3/4 of its volume, place it in a 400F oven, reducing the temperature immediately to 375F. Cook the souffle’ for 30 minutes – do not open the oven door during the first 20 minutes. If you like it moist inside, serve after 30 minutes. I prefer to cook for 5 additional minutes, then the texture inside is perfect, not too dry, not too creamy.

Serve right away, souffle waits for no one!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The best way to maximize lift when using a heavy vegetable such as broccoli, is to cut it in smallish pieces and add them to the base when you are almost ready to pour it into the baking dish. Some recipes will ask you to process the veggies, but I much prefer slightly larger pieces. For that very reason, blanching, steaming (or cheating and using the microwave) is also recommended. I’ve made the exact same recipe using raw broccoli and prefer it this way.

Here’s free advice for my readers: if you are the partner or family member of a food blogger, get out-of-the-way once the souffle is served. Yes, you will be eating it soon, but picture obviously trumps appetite. Obviously.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

TWO YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

THREE YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FOUR YEAR AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

FIVE YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SIX YEARS AGO: Homemade Calzones

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

NINE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY MOUSSE CAKE

If you are obsessed with mirror glazed cakes, perhaps you’ve heard of the absolute goddess of the mirror universe, Ksenia Penkina.  The stuff she does is purely mind-blowing. Ksenia offers classes online and for a long time I dreamed about taking one.  I finally caved and got her introductory class, in which she explained how to make this adorable mousse cake. Having changed quite a few things in the recipe, (cake base, insert and glaze), I feel it’s ok to share. Plus, it would be impossible to offer in a blog post everything you get from watching her. Running no risk of infringing any copyright issues, I show you two versions of the same mousse cake, a larger one in a traditional format, and a small cake that would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day dessert. They were both made to celebrate Aritri’s PhD defense in November, a wonderful accomplishment by our most amazing graduate student. Congratulations, Dr. Majumdar!

WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY MOUSSE CAKE
(adapted from Ksenia Penkina)

for the hazelnut dacquoise:
120 g ground hazelnuts (peeled and lightly roasted)
135 g powdered sugar
40 g all-purpose flour
200 g egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
70 g granulated sugar

for the raspberry insert:
7.5 g gelatin (around 200 bloom)
40 g cold water
280 g raspberry puree, sieved to remove seeds
12 g cornstarch
80 g sugar

for the white chocolate mousse:
11 g gelatin (200 bloom)
60 g cold water
350 + 400 g heavy cream (divided)
370 g white chocolate, finely diced
30 g fresh lemon juice

for the mirror glaze (adapted from Phil’s Home Kitchen):
2½ sheets (4g) of Platinum grade sheet gelatine
120ml water
150 g liquid glucose
150 g granulated or caster sugar
100 g condensed milk
150 g white chocolate, chopped fairly small
1/2 tsp titanium oxide
red, black, pink and white gel food colouring
tempered white chocolate for decoration (optional)
sprinkles for decoration (optional)

Prepare a 7 inch cake ring by wrapping it in plastic from the bottom to the sides, so you can use it to pour the fruit insert and freeze it later. Make sure it is sitting on a flat baking sheet that will fit in your freezer.

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Make the dacquoise base: in a bowl, mix together the flour, powdered sugar, and ground hazelnuts. Reserve. Make a meringue by whisking the egg whites with the cream of tartar until very foamy. Add the sugar slowly, whisking in high-speed until soft peaks form. Delicately fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Spread as homogeneously as possible in a baking sheet to have a thickness of about 0.4 inch (1 cm). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool it completely and store in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.

Make the raspberry insert: In a small bowl, add the cold water, then pour the gelatin powder on the surface, gently mixing to hydrate the powder. Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Sift the sugar with the cornstarch and add to the puree of raspberries in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Turn the heat off, allow the mixture to cool to around 175 F (80 C), and add the bloomed gelatin, whisking well to fully incorporate it into the hot liquid. Pour some of it in the prepared cake ring to a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 inch. If using the heart-shaped mold, pour an amount to give similar thickness into that pan too. You will use the full amount made to divide in the two pans. Freeze for several hours, or preferably overnight.

Make the white chocolate mousse: mix the gelatin with water as described for raspberry insert. Reserve. Heat 350 g of heavy cream in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges.  Pour over the white chocolate, add the bloomed gelatin, stir gently until chocolate is dissolved. Warm the lemon juice briefly in the microwave, and pour over the white chocolate cream.  Reserve.

Whip the remaining 400 g of heavy cream until it reaches the consistency of melted ice cream. Fold gently into the reserved white chocolate mixture. Your mousse is done.

Assemble the cake: remove the pans with the frozen inserts from the freezer and remove them from the molds. Prepare a slightly larger cake ring (8 inch) with plastic wrap in the bottom to assemble the larger cake. Add to the bottom of each pan (cake ring and heart-shaped mold) a layer of white chocolate mousse. Carefully place each insert floating on top, trying to center them as well as possible. Cover the mold almost to the top with mousse, then add the reserved dacquoise on top. Fill and gaps on the sides with mousse to make a smooth top (which will be the bottom of your un-molded dessert). Freeze overnight. Really important that the cake is absolutely frozen before proceeding with the glaze.

Make the mirror glaze. Put the water, sugar and liquid glucose in a small pan and bring to simmering point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. This is the base syrup for the glaze.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in some cold water for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and stir into the hot water, sugar and liquid glucose mixture to dissolve. Stir in the condensed milk.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour this hot mixture slowly over the chocolate, stirring gently to melt it, avoid making bubbles. A stick immersion blender works great, but you must keep the blades fully submerged at all times. If bubbles are present, pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Add 1/2 tsp titanium oxide to the mixture, divide in two portions. You are aiming for two different tones of red. I used red and a tiny amount of black dye for the darker color, red, pink and white to the second portion.

Leave the glaze uncovered for an hour at room temperature for the glaze to cooled and be slightly thickened: if it is too runny you will get too thin a layer on top, colors will not blend well and less glaze will cling to the sides of the cake. The ideal temperature to pour the glaze is 92 to 94 F. Once it is slightly above that (around 97 F), pour both colors in the same container, barely mix them, and pour over the frozen, un-molded cakes sitting over a rack with a baking sheet underneath.

Tap the rack gently to settle the glaze, and very gently and quickly run an off-set spatula on top of the cake to force excess glaze to run down the sides. Do that just once, or you will ruin the marble effect. Drips under the cake can be cleaned with a spatula or sharp knife. Let the glaze set at room temperature for 15 minutes, add the decorations of choice, then place the cakes in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours. Use a hot knife to cut slices without compromising the glaze.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipe will make two cakes, you can definitely cut it in half and bake a single large cake or a couple of small ones. I used a Silikomart mold called Amore for the small cake, and a cake ring, 8 inch diameter for the large one. The original cake base was a coconut dacquoise, but Aritri is not too wild about coconut in desserts, so I used a hazelnut version instead. Ksenia has access to a different type of gelatin, hard to find in the US, so I decided to stick to the mirror glaze formula from Philip’s blog, as I’ve been doing lately.

The larger cake was glazed a few hours before the heart cake, so I could only do the two-color effect on the big one. The leftover glaze was saved and applied to the small cake, but then the colors were obviously mixed. To add a bit more of a festive look, I used decorations from Fancy Sprinkles, a company I advise you to visit with restraint. Dangerous, very dangerous site. You’ve been warned.

To decorate the larger cake, I sat in front of a candle in a comfortable Full Lotus posture (yeah, right), went through 113 cycles of deep breathing, and… tried my hands at tempering some white chocolate. Against all odds, it was successful. Once I was done with my extended version of the Ecstatic Dance, I piped random crisscrossed lines on acetate film, let them set, broke them into small pieces and attached them to the base of the cake. In retrospect, I should have planned the decorations more carefully to come up with something a little more elegant. But truth be told, tempering chocolate is so tricky for me, I never expect it to work. When I realized it was all good, I had no specific plan on how to use it. Oh, well. Next time I’ll be ready. And then we all know what might happen: both chocolate and me will lose temper. Story of my life.

The cake tasted pretty amazing. I do think the combination of raspberries with white chocolate is hard to beat. Raspberries shine in desserts because they have such tangy flavor, cutting through excessive sweetness. The hazelnut dacquoise retained its nice texture during the freezing-thawing process, it did not turn mushy at all. I need to fine tune the amount of gelatin in the glaze, though. It seems a tad too runny.


One of the tricky parts of this type of dessert is baking a very uniform layer of cake or biscuit base. For cookie type bases (sable for instance), you can roll the dough using plastic guides with specific dimension. For cakes like dacquoise or genoise, I think baking frames could be the best option. Must investigate. Could be a fun gadget to showcase in a future “In My Kitchen.” The sacrifices one makes in the name of blogging!

As far as mousse cakes are concerned, this is a reasonably simple one, because it involves a single mousse, a single insert, and a single layer of cake/biscuit. If you are worried about making a mirror glaze, the cake could be served “naked” with some simple decorations on top. A drizzle of milk and white chocolate, a drizzle of white chocolate with some red dye dissolved in it, sprinkles, shaving of tempered chocolate, so many things you can do. But between you and me, the mirror glaze just makes a simple cake super special. Perfect to celebrate a terrific PhD defense!

ONE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

TWO YEARS AGO: Pistachio Creme Brulee

THREE YEARS AGO: Fast and Furious Bison Chili

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

SIX YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

NINE YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta

FUN WITH SOURDOUGH

Bread baking can be intimidating, and if you take it into sourdough territory, things are potentially even more stressful. Truth is, when compared to “regular” bread made with commercial yeast, sourdough is very forgiving. In part because it is a slower process, and it offers a lot of flexibility in terms of timing, amount of starter, level of hydration. It is easier to accommodate to any working schedule, once you get used to the rhythm. I am set on mixing the dough from 5 to 9pm, shaping and retarding in the fridge the whole night, baking early next morning, straight from the fridge. The breads from this post were all made with the same simple formula, mostly white bread flour, a touch of spelt. After bulk proofing for 4 hours at room temperature, they were shaped and placed in the fridge to sleep and dream overnight. Then, the real fun started. I tried a few different things, as you will see. It’s great that the husband enjoys a slice of bread for lunch several days a week. Because the home bakery has been working overtime lately!

CLASSIC SOURDOUGH  BREAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g active starter (at 100% hydration)
375 g water, room temperature
450 g bread flour
50 g whole-wheat flour
10 g salt

Mix all ingredients for the bread in a large bowl, making a shaggy mass. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Mix gently folding the dough a few times until smooth.

Allow it to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough 3 times during the four hours, no need to be precise about the spacing of folding cycles. Just make sure you fold it a few times.  At the end of four hours, shape it either as a round ball or a batard.

Transfer to a well floured banneton, seam-side up, and place in the fridge overnight, 8 to 12 hours, longer if needed.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450 F. Invert the shaped loaf, still cold from the fridge over parchment paper. Dust the surface with a little flour and slash to your liking. Or, dust with cocoa powder using a stencil.

Place in a cold Dutch oven, cover, and stick in the hot oven for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 15 more minutes with the lid off.  Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Cocoa powder is a nice way to create contrast without affecting taste. You will not detect any bitterness or cocoa flavor in the bread, don’t even worry about it. The sourdough nature will be pretty much unaffected by the thin layer of cocoa on top. Right before baking the bread, lay your stencil on top of the shaped dough, sift cocoa all over. Remove the stencil carefully, slash the bread and bake.

You have two options here, slashing right before adding the stencil, or after. I think slashing before might be better, and that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to coach your bread to preserve the design as much as possible during baking. With that goal in mind, make one or several reasonably deep slashes around the perimeter of the design, so that – all things working as planned – the bread will burst around the design, not in the middle of it. But, of course, bread has a mind of its own, and part of its charm is that you just never know…

I did not expect to have such amazing oven spring, but Polaris, my newly named starter, is absolutely amazing!  I got it from Elaine, and you can get it too (as well as the gorgeous bread lame you can see in the composite photo) with a visit to her site here. She ships worldwide, by the way.

Another way you can use cocoa powder is coupling it with a more delicate slashing using a brand new razor blade (this is really important, it must be super sharp). Coat the bread with a fine dusting of cocoa powder (or you can use a mixture of regular bread flour with cocoa for a lighter tone), then slash the pattern you like.

As you can see, I made the mistake of not coaching the bread into opening someplace else rather than the middle of my design. It was still a pretty nice loaf, but just did not look the way I wanted. Next morning we noticed a scary monster waiting for us in the counter top…

Hello there! Come here often?

😉

Now, to continue with the fun. For the following bake, I made a slightly bigger amount of dough (starting with 600 g flour and increasing all other ingredients proportionally), then shaped two small balls (using roughly 200 g dough for each). The remaining dough was used to make a batard. The small loaves were proofed in cute little bannetons, about 5 inches in diameter. This picture shows them next to the regular sized banneton.

So we had not only a scary monster in the Bewitching Kitchen, but also an alien. Never a dull moment, my friends. Never a dull moment.

One of the small rolls received a cocoa-stencil, the other got slashed in a basket-pattern. Exact same dough and time of fermentation, baked side by side in the Dutch oven. These would be excellent bread-gifts for the holidays, maybe with a special stencil design, like a small Christmas tree, stars, or bells. 

The bigger, batard, got just a straightforward slashing pattern, and upon baking, also showed its rebel personality… 😉

As usual, we enjoy a couple of slices on the day I bake, next morning the bread is sliced and placed in the freezer. Baking once or twice a month is enough to keep up with our bread consumption. But, I confess that the temptation to bake every week to try something new… is not negligible (sigh).

ONE YEAR AGO: Pasteis de Nata

TWO YEARS AGO: New Mexico Pork Chile, Crockpot Version

THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate on Chocolate

FOUR YEARS AGO: Double Chocolate and Mint Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Story of my first Creme Brulle’

SIX YEARS AGO: Sourdough Mini-rolls

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mediterranean Skewers

NNE YEARS AGO Fettuccine with Shrimp, Swiss Chard, and Tomatoes

BANANA LAYER CAKE WITH MERINGUE ICING

If you need a festive cake that is not that hard to make (trust me, as a former cake-o-phobe, I know what I’m talking about), look no further. Inspiration came from several sources: cake from one cookbook, icing from another, filling from my own imagination, based on my Mom’s “doce de banana”. It was one of the very few sweets she made regularly, as both my Dad and I were crazy about it. I had to control myself not to say we went bananas for it. There, I just said it. Good memories.

BANANA LAYER CAKE WITH MERINGUE ICING
(adapted from Sprinklebakes)

for the cake:
113 g butter, softened (1 stick)
350 g sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste
270 g all-purpose flour
3 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature (about 290 g)
for the frosting:
150 g sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup milk (230 g)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), softened
2 Tablespoons icing sugar
for the filling:
4 medium bananas, cut into slices
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
2 bananas, sliced, sprinkled with lemon juice
for the frosting:
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup egg whites

Make the cake. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease the center and perimeter of three 8 inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the center of the paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla paste, beat until combined.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the mixer in three additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes, cleaning the bowl midway through.  Divide the batter in the three pans, bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. After the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, invert them on a rack and allow them to completely cool.

Make the custard frosting. Mix the sugar and flour inside a saucepan. Add the egg and egg yolk, whisk vigorously. Add the  milk and vanilla and mix very well. Heat gently over medium-low heat until the mixture boils and thickens. The goal is to have the consistency of pudding. Let it cool completely.

Beat the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer using a wire whisk. When they are very well combined and creamy, add the cooled custard prepared before. Beat on high-speed for 7 minutes, until it thickens.

Make the filling. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet, add the brown sugar and cook until it starts to dissolve. Add the slices of banana, the heavy cream, and cook everything together until the bananas start to get golden brown and the cream thickens slightly.  Cool and reserve.

Assemble the cake.  Toss the fresh slices of banana with lemon juice and reserve in a small bowl. Place one cake layer over a cake stand, and spread with a very thin layer of custard frosting. Add half the caramelized bananas, and half the fresh banana slices. Set the second cake layer on top. Add a thing layer of custard, and the remaining of bananas, caramelized and fresh. Top with the final cake layer, bottom side up.

Coat the whole cake with frosting, make it a thin layer, no need to worry about covering the surface, because the meringue icing will take care of that.  Keep in the fridge until frosting, for at least a couple of hours.

Make the meringue icing. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the egg whites with the sugar and place over a pan with simmering water. Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Immediately hook the bowl to the mixer and beat in high-speed until stiff peak forms.  Remove the cake from the fridge and add a thick coating of the meringue frosting. You can then add all sorts of swirls and spikes to the surface, using either your bare fingers (a bit messy), or the back of a spoon. Have fun with it.  Torch the surface to give a nice effect all over. Don’t burn  it to the point it gets black, because then the sugar will taste bitter.

Slice and serve!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I have four tips for you when it comes to cake baking.

Tip #1: Get that mis-en-place going. When you measure all the ingredients and lay them up spatially in the order they will be used, your life will be a lot easier. And the probability that you will forget the melted butter in the final stage of genoise preparation will be considerably reduced.

Tip #2: Have all ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, oils, butter. They incorporate better that way, and you will have a smoother batter. You can soak eggs in warm water for 5 minutes in case you forgot to remove them from the fridge.

Tip #3: Sift the leavening agent with other dry ingredients. This will disperse the powder (baking soda, baking powder) uniformly, ensuring that your cake will rise evenly.

Tip #4: For cake layers that are perfectly leveled, spray or coat just the center of the pan with your greasing agent of choice (Pam, butter), and a light coat on the sides. Amazing how well that works. If you look at the composite picture, I included a shot of one of the cakes when I just inverted it out of the baking pan. No trimming was needed in any of the three cake layers. I cannot take credit for this baking tip, it’s something I saw over at Pastries Like a Pro and have been using for a long time now. Always works. Thank you, Helen!

Some bakers recommend those Wilton bands that go around the cake pan to ensure even baking. I’ve tried them, and found that the cake ended up with a sort of “steamed” quality I did not care for. Maybe that could be fixed with a slightly longer bake, but to me nothing beats the trick of greasing just the center of the pan. It’s so much easier than messing with those bands soaked in water.

This is a big, hearty cake, a small slice will be enough, but you will be tempted to go back for another little sliver. The contrast of caramelized bananas with a few bites of fresh fruit made the cake even more flavorful and cut through the sweetness of the filling.  For the future, I would reduce the amount of icing (maybe start with 3/4 cup of egg whites and decrease the sugar proportionally), as it made way too much.  It was a recipe from Fine Cooking and they said it would be enough to cover one 9-inch round cake. In my opinion, that amount would be enough to cover two of those with some to spare and flick at drooling dogs standing nearby.

I made the cake on Sunday but added the frosting Monday morning just before taking it to the department. I don’t think meringue icing holds up very well and was afraid it would be compromised after a night in the fridge.  It was a ton of fun to torch it, maybe next time we should try to make a video.  Everybody loved this cake, even though it was massive, it was gone before 11am. I call that a successful Mondays with Sweetness deal!

ONE YEAR AGO: Mini-Frittatas with Broccoli and Cheese

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

THREE YEARS AGO: Anne Burrell’s Focaccia

FOUR YEARS AGO: Double Chocolate and Mint Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cappuccino Panna Cotta

SIX YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

NINE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

 

STIR-FRIED CHICKEN IN SESAME-ORANGE SAUCE

This type of preparation profits from the additional step of velveting the meat. In this version, instead of velveting, I opted to cook the chicken sous-vide, then slice it and incorporate in the sauce. It worked very well, in fact I’ve done that with beef also, but never blogged about it, not sure why.  Those pictures are still sitting in a folder from 2016, if you can believe it…  But back to what matters. This turned out so delicious, the husband made me promise it will be a regular in our rotation. Number one fear of a food blogger’s partner: once a recipe is tried, it will be gone forever!  No such risk with this one.  If you don’t have a sous-vide gadget, simply slice the chicken very thinly, use the velveting method I showed before (click here), and proceed with the recipe as described.

STIR-FRIED CHICKEN WITH VEGGIES IN SESAME-ORANGE SAUCE
(adapted from several sources)

for the sous-vide:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp olive oil
grated ginger and salt to taste
for the sauce:

¼ cup ponzu sauce
1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 ½ teaspoons tapioca flour
grated zest of 1/2 orange plus 1/3 cup juice
for the stir-fry:
1 tablespoon olive oil (or other oil of your choice)
Chicken cooked sous-vide, sliced thin
1 pound broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
lemon juice to taste
toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Place the chicken breast rubbed with the olive oil and seasoned with ginger and salt inside a food-safe plastic bag. No need to seal with vacuum, but you can if you prefer. Place chicken in sous-vide at 150F and cook for 3 to 4 hours. Time is flexible, you can leave it longer if needed, but don’t let it go past 6 hours at that temperature.

Whisk all ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl, and reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet (12 inch) over very high heat until almost smoking. Add the broccoli and carrots, season with salt and red pepper flakes, stir-fry for a couple of minutes. When the veggies start to get some browned spots, pour 1/3 cup water in the pan and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, open the lid and check that the veggies are tender. If there is any liquid in the pan, let it evaporate.

Add the chicken slices previously cooked, move the pieces around to warm them through. Add the reserved sauce, and simmer everything together until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Squirt some lemon juice right before serving, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Funny little tangent. Probably because of all the baking I’ve been doing, I am now really adamant about mis-en-place. As I was preparing this meal, I had all my ingredients prepped, super proud of myself.  I took the picture above and then proceeded to gather the ingredients for the sauce. Added everything to a nice yellow bowl, and had this self-complimenting thought “you are really dominating this mis-en-place thing.”  Right after my neurons formulated the thought, I dropped the orange in the beautiful yellow bowl with all ingredients so carefully measured and ready to go. Bowl flipped on the counter top, spilling everything right before my adrenaline-dilated pupils. Lesson in humility taken. End of story.

But, despite the drama, this was one tasty meal, reasonably low in carbs and fat, and the chicken had perfect texture, none of that stringy quality so common in stir-fries. The sous-vide is a nice option. You could conceivably make it the day before even, keep still in the bag in the fridge, bring to room temperature as you get your ingredients ready.  We’ll definitely incorporate this recipe in our regular rotation from now on. Just need to work on that “mis-en-place” thing.

ONE YEAR AGO: Monday Blues

TWO YEARS AGO: A New Way to Roast Veggies

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Takes on Raspberries

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spice Cake with Blackberry Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

SIX YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

NINE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread